- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Ten employees of a Texas cable contractor and a former Comcast worker are accused of using at least 1,200 Comcast customers’ personal information to open 3,600 fraudulent cable accounts in northwest Louisiana, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator said Tuesday.

The scheme cost Comcast, RMH Cable of Austin, Texas, and customers more than $1.2 million in commissions, equipment and service, Prator said in a news release.

He said a former Comcast employee from Tennessee has been arrested and deputies are looking for nine men and a woman from at least five states. They didn’t have addresses for two; the others were from Maryland, Georgia, New York, Louisiana, and Texas.

Comcast hired RMH to find new Shreveport-area customers, and the conspirators allegedly found residents who agreed to have cable service installed using others’ information so the contractors could collect commissions averaging $300 per account, Prator said.

He said Michael Jones, 39, of Baltimore and Willie James Jones, 42, of Atlanta are accused of organizing the scheme to get Louisiana residents to sign up for cable under other people’s names.

Prator said Valerie Nicole Nichols, 33, of Pleasant View, Tennessee, is accused of selling the Comcast customers’ personal information to the Jones men - information that was used to open the accounts.

Nichols and the two alleged ringleaders each face one count of conspiracy and 107 counts of identity theft. Warrants accuse the other eight on one count of each crime.

The news release did not say whether charges might be pursued against any of the people who agreed to have cable service installed using others’ information. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department did not immediately respond to an email request for more information.

Prator said the Caddo-Shreveport Financial Crimes Task Force began getting complaints of identity theft in April 2013. Most were from people outside the parish who had received collection notices on overdue accounts they’d never heard about.

The sheriff’s office is working with the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force and other law enforcement agencies to help track down the 10 wanted suspects, Prator said.

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